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EMI Countersues Kanye, Alleging Breach of Contract

After Kanye West likened his contract with music publisher EMI to slavery, EMI struck back with a federal complaint Thursday, accusing the rapper of forum shopping to get out of the deal.

MANHATTAN (CN) – The music publisher Kanye West once likened to a slave owner countersued the rapper Thursday, claiming the complaint West filed last month in California was nothing more than forum shopping.

West’s suit, filed on Jan. 25 in Los Angeles Superior Court, claimed that EMI manipulated contract terms to make it virtually impossible for him to retire.

“As a result [of the contract language], EMI could purport to require Mr. West to continue to render exclusive services to EMI for years, perhaps even for the rest of his life,” the complaint states.

West said he brought the litigation “to obtain his freedom,” claimed that the contract kept West in “servitude,” and pleaded with the court to “set [West] free from its bonds.”

Among other things, West accused EMI of enforcing his 2003 contact for “more than double the maximum seven-year period California law allows.” He demands that EMI turn over ownership of all his songs composed after October 2010 and all funds from those songs.

Not to be outdone, EMI fired back Thursday in the Southern District of New York. The publisher notes that its contract with West was modified seven times since 2005 to grant it the option to add additional contract years to the partnership, to which West agreed and was paid.

Importantly, those modifications also bind West to New York state courts for any disputes, says EMI, which is based in New York City.

West, by filing in California, “has created uncertainty around EMI’s and West’s respective rights and obligations under the agreements,” the complaint states.

In addition to asking that the court declare its 2003 contract and subsequent modifications valid and binding, EMI appears to take issue with West’s characterization of the contract as bondage or slavery.

Indeed, “the purpose of the 2003 agreement is not the furnishing of personal services, but rather the allocation of rights in musical compositions in exchange for royalty payments,” the complaint states.

EMI says it “has no right to — and does not — direct, supervise, or manage” West’s writing or recording. 

“In short, West is an independent contractor over whom EMI exercises no control whatsoever,” the complaint states.

West has made several controversial comments about slavery and race in recent years, such as in May 2018 when he said during an interview with TMZ that slavery “sounds like a choice” and that African-Americans were “mentally in prison.”

Last fall, West gave a bizarre speech sporting a MAGA hat while on “Saturday Night Live,” in which he claimed Democrats used welfare to entrap African-Americans. 

“If I was concerned about racism, I would’ve moved out of America a long time ago,” he reportedly said in the unaired segment.

West also gained notoriety in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when he told an audience that President George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people.”

Attorneys from the firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, who are representing West in his California lawsuit, did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

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